An atheist group is complaining about two signs posted outside a city hall in New York state that declare “God Bless America.”
But the signs hung by a Long Island official outside the town hall of Babylon, N.Y., are perfectly legal, according to a group specializing in constitutional law that has volunteered to defend them.
“The phrase ‘God bless America’ does not violate the Constitution,” said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund.
“If it did,” he added, “then all the Democrat and Republican members of Congress standing on the steps of the Capitol singing ‘God Bless America’ after 9-11 would have been subject to arrest.”
The official, Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone, reportedly posted the two signs outside the town hall in the village of Lindenhurst to honor American men and women serving in the military.
One of the signs, an 11-foot banner, reads, “Thank You to Our Troops, God Bless America.” The other sign reads, “God Bless America” and displays a community calendar on the reverse side.
Two groups, including the Freedom from Religion Foundation, reportedly have complained to Bellone that the signs violate the so-called “separation of church and state.”
“The phrase ‘God bless America’ is routinely used by U.S. presidents in their addresses. From the Declaration of Independence to our currency, this country has always acknowledged a belief in God,” McCaleb explained.
He argued the town’s signs clearly do not constitute an establishment of religion.
If the town is threatened with legal action, he said, the Alliance Defense Fund will defend it free of charge.
ADF says it has defended numerous government bodies and public officials who have been threatened with legal action for alleged violations of the Establishment Clause because of public displays that include some religious content.